The producers of the television program the West Wing mock and vilify God’s word and God’s people; but, the silver lining is that watching it gives us the opportunity to train ourselves to be ready to answer the difficult questions that we will now surely encounter more than ever in the wake of Supreme Court-sanctioned-same-sex marriage.
The tactics used in the program of misquoting the word of God are nothing new; it is the very same seduction that the serpent used in the garden. Questions like those posed in this clip have been used by college professors for many years to cause ill-prepared students to stumble and depart from faith in God’s word. Never before has it been so important to be able to know and defend the truth.
Psalm 119, traditionally attributed to King David, exalts the word of God throughout its 176 verses. Using the Hebrew alpha bet, the writer praises Yahweh’s statutes, ordinances, judgments, testimonies, and laws [Torah] for 22 stanzas, beginning each with a Hebrew letter. It is a stellar composition of which non-conformist 18th century teacher and Bible commentator Matthew Henry proclaims, “like none of the rest; it excels them all, and shines brightest in this constellation.”
It must be noted that nearly every verse contains “Thy word,” “Thy law,” or some element of the covenant, (i.e. Thy judgments, Thy testimony, Thy statutes). Is it a coincidence that Psalm 119 has been placed in the very center of most English translations? Or that it is the longest chapter in the Bible? The only “word of God” that existed when this psalm was penned was the five books of Moses. Yet, repeatedly, the psalmist proclaims it to be eternal. Here is a sampling:
119:89 Forever, O LORD, Thy word is settled in heaven..
119:105 Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path
119:142 Thy righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and Thy law [Hebrew: Torah] is the truth.
119:151 Thou art near, O LORD; and all Thy commandments are truth.
119:172 My tongue shall speak of Thy word: for all Thy commandments are righteousness.
119:130 The unfolding of Thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.
119:160 The sum of Thy word is truth, and every one of Thy righteous rules endures forever.
Centuries after the psalm was written, Peter also wrote, “the word of the LORD endures forever.” Did he quote psalm 119? The editor’s note in my NKJV links Peter’s statement to Isaiah 40:6-8; pictured above. But, could Isaiah, in fact, be quoting Psalm 119 instead? Or, is it more likely the psalmist, Isaiah, and Peter were actually referencing the Torah?
A quick check reveals nearly fifty usages of the word “forever” in the first five books of the Bible in which God’s covenant with Israel is revealed.
“Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations…And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. [Gen. 17:4,7]
Is “the covenant” different from “the word?” Not according to at least three witnesses in Scripture.
Then he [Moses] took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.” And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.” [Ex. 24:7,8] (It is important to note here the presence of three witnesses in this passage: the spoken word, the written word and the covenant .
Be mindful always of his covenant; the word which he commanded to a thousand generations. [1 Chron. 16:15]
He hath remembered his covenant forever, the word which he commanded to a thousand generations. [Psalm 105:8]
Where do we first read of the promise to “a thousand generations? This phrase is only used three times in all of Scripture. The first instance is in the Torah:
Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations. [Deut. 7:9]
Just how long is a thousand generations? Some say a generation is 40 years, others say 50 or 70. But, if it were 40 years, then we are talking about 40,000 years. According to Jewish reckoning, as of Sept. 14, 2015 we began the year 5776 since the creation of the earth (although they admit to some 150-170 missing years). Rounding up to 6000 and dividing by 40 equals 150 generations, a far cry from a thousand.
The writings of King David and Isaiah [and for that matter, all of the prophets, including Abraham and Moses] demonstrate the righteous leaders of Israel experienced intimacy with BOTH the written word AND the Living Word long before the “Word was made flesh.” To them, there was no difference between what was written and the Voice/Word that they heard [and in the case of Moses and Abraham, saw!]
A quick search on the phrase “word of God” in the English Standard Version reveals 40 usages in the New Testament, each time either quoting or referencing the Old Testament writings, or else, referring to Jesus/Yeshua, the “word made flesh.” According to John the Apostle, “in the beginning was the word and the word was with God and was God and nothing that was made was made without him…And the word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” [John 1:1-3, 14]
We have been incorrectly taught by some that the “word made flesh” differs from the written word. Does it makes sense that Jesus/Yeshua would very carefully walk out His Father’s commandments and then teach people to do the very opposite? He said He had come NOT to speak His own words; but to speak the words of the Father. [John 8:28, 14:10]
In His John 17 prayer that the Father would unite his followers as one, just as He and the Father are one, Jesus/Yeshua prayed, “Sanctify them by the truth; Thy word is truth.” [vs 17]. It is clear that Jesus/Yeshua was quoting Psalm 119:142! When He prayed this prayer there was NO other Scripture except the Tanach [Hebrew acronym for Torah, writings, and prophets].
Is the Bible really a book we can trust or do we have to make excuses for parts of it or say that it only applies to certain people? A person who had never read Scripture and had no preconceived notions about it would find no place in the Old Testament that proclaimed that God’s instruction to the Hebrews was temporary or for them alone. Hear the psalmist, then Isaiah, and Amos:
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law[Torah] of the LORD, and on his law [Torah] he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish. [Psalm 1:1-6] Note no mention of Israel or Jacob; rather, blessed be the man….any man!
Blessed is the man who does this, and the son of man who holds it fast, who keeps the Sabbath, not profaning it, and keeps his hand from doing any evil.” Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the LORD say, “The LORD will surely separate me from his people”… For thus says the LORD…to those who keep my covenant, I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off. “And the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, to minister to him, to love the name of the LORD, and to be his servants, everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it, and holds fast my covenant— these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” The Lord GOD, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, declares, “I will gather yet others to him besides those already gathered.” [Isaiah 56:2-8]
“For the Lord GOD does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets.” [Amos 3:7]
The books of the prophets are filled with promises that the gentiles will enter into covenant with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. We see the fulfillment of it in the Book of Revelation in the multitude that no man can number. Isaiah and Micah proclaim it:
Many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go the law [Torah], and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. [Isaiah 2:3, repeated in Micah 4:2] An example of Hebrew parallelism; the Torah and the Word are one.
None of us would be so foolish as to adopt a child and give him a set of instructions that were entirely different from the instructions and expectations of our own flesh and blood children. To do so would be to invite utter chaos and assure zero chance of unity. Why, then, do we presume that the Creator would do so when the desire of His heart is that we would be one?
I know what you are thinking. “What about Paul….? It is a complex subject and there are valid explanations; but it will take time to work through them. The short answer is that most mainstream pastors and teachers do not understand that the true controversy between Jesus/Yeshua (and Paul) with the religious leaders was concerning the Oral Torah [Jewish law], and not the Torah given by God to Moses on Mount Sinai. If you want to read a bit more about that, please take a look at this short article entitled Examining the Leaven of the Pharisees and Sadduccees.
Peter admitted that Paul’s writings were being twisted in his day.
But according to His promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. [2 Peter 3:13-16]
May I make a suggestion? Would you be consider giving one hour a week to go through the Torah cycle this year to judge for yourself the possibility that we may have missed something in our Christian upbringing? You don’t have to listen to me–there are a number of sound teachers that you can hear (for free) over the Internet. I will include a list on my resource page. But, the most important thing I can say is to urge you to read the Bible through for yourself. For a time, maybe a year or two, set aside commentary and devotionals and just read, whole books at the time, asking the Father to help you to see what He wants you to see. Paul had to spend three years in the desert of Arabia after his eyes were opened to the fact that the traditions of men– which the “Pharisee of Pharisees” had been taught from birth–made the word of God of no effect. [Gal. 1:14-18, see also Mat. 15:3-6]
Jeremiah said that in the last days the Gentiles will realize that they have missed something: “O LORD, my strength, and my fortress, and my refuge in the day of affliction, the Gentiles shall come unto thee from the ends of the earth, and shall say, Surely our fathers have inherited lies, vanity, and things wherein there is no profit.” [Jeremiah 16:19] That this is happening in our day is evident to any who have eyes to see the numbers leaving the churches and the numbers increasing in Messianic synagogues and houses of worship.
It takes courage to examine information that is opposed to our mental framework–and pride can be a strong deterrent. But to do so is necessary or else Yeshua can say of us, as He said to His generation, “They knew not their time of visitation.” [Luke 19:44] We need not be afraid to thoroughly examine all arguments concerning a matter of controversy before making a judgment. But, to refuse to hear a matter just because it is foreign, is unwise, as the religious leaders of Yeshua’s day proved. A thorough search of biblical history reveals that sometimes God hides things in plain sight until His appointed time. But, to those who are willing to come as little children, even as the Syro-Phoenecian woman who was willing to accept “crumbs,” He will reveal the His secrets.
He that answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame unto him. [Prov. 18:13]
It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honor of kings is to search out a matter. [Prov. 25:2]
In the 17th century a paradigm shift was underway from the earth-centered universe theory to the heliocentric model. The brilliant astronomer Galileo found himself on the forefront of the shift. His predecessor, Copernicus, developed the theory about a hundred years earlier. Galileo, however, built a powerful telescope, confirmed the Copernicus theory, and widely published the information. In doing so, he found himself at odds with the very powerful Catholic Church, was tried for heresy, convicted, and placed under house arrest until his death. It took courage for Galileo to investigate, declare, and stand against official Church doctrine. Even though the new model had become widely accepted by the 19th century, it took over 350 years, until 1993, for Pope John II to at last declare Galileo innocent and to apologize for the indictment against him. Galileo is now lauded as the Father of Modern Science.
We don’t get a “download” of information when by faith we believe. It takes work to study and to allow Scripture to interpret and give definitions of concepts that were readily understood by the Hebrew culture 2000 years ago and before. But, we are not alone. “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” [John 16:13] We can rest in the comfort that He will do just that. Shalom!